Setting the Twist and Yarnie Thoughts

New to Handspun Yarn?

Are you new to handspun thick and thin yarn? Or are you a new to knitting or crochet and are curious about handspun thick and thin yarns? The best way to help yourself out is to start with a small skein and work up a small project.  That should help you decide if you like thick and thin handspun yarn.  Some people don’t like it and that’s ok too!  It would be best not to load up on it, if you don’t really know if you’ll like working with it.

thick and thin yarn, violet and green yarn, art yarn, slub yarn, setting the twist

Thick and thin handspun is considered an art yarn, meaning there are no set rules on the amount of twist, or thick and thin spots or how long each thick or thin spot is in a skein.  This is where a spinner takes creative license and spins in their own style.  My handspun thick and thin yarn may not be like another spinner’s thick and thin yarn.  It’s fun to work some projects with different yarn and through this you might find a spinning style you prefer.  I like dependability as much as I like variances, but I prefer dependability for ease in my work.

WPI – What is it and how to find it?

WPI stand for wraps per inch.  It is determined by how many times a strand of yarn can wrap around a ruler in the space of one inch.  Keeping a general even tension, not too tight and not too loose.  Thinner yarn will have more wraps per inch and thicker yarns not as many.  You can use some of your commercial yarn to find it’s wpi to better understand the gauge of  handspun yarn that you would like to work with.  Keep in mind that these are all average numbers because this is all hand made.  I use only my eyes and my hands to decide how much yarn to pull off my roving piece for spinning.  If I need a thin yarn and pull too much..I have to pull it down quite thin at the wheel.  Experience dictates a “good guess”.  As the wool is drafted out of my hands and being spun, I find the “just right” amount to let go of and let twist to get the gauge I want.  It might be good for you to know, I purchase my wool by weight, not by yardage.  So I sell my wool by weight.  Traditionally commercial  yarn is sold touting it’s yardage and I think a lot of folks think that “more yardage” means you get more yarn.  That is only true relative to the weight of the fiber.  As you can see from the illustrated photos below, I can make 2 oz. of fiber into many different gauges.  The thinner  gauge will produce more yards – but you will have to use a smaller needle or hook and your stitches won’t be working up as much fabric either.  The fabric produced will be smaller.   Using bulky thick and thin yarn that has less yardage does not mean you were “shorted” by your spinner,  because it is not as much yardage as a skein spun at an 8 wpi, it’s the same 2 oz. it’s just spun much thicker.  Your needle or hook will have to be larger and the fabric produced will be larger.  I made a baby hat, with a tail, using very large knitting needles once from 19 yards of very thick yarn. The “bulky” “medium” and “thin” are my categories for MY yarn only.  I did not try to meet any kind of standard here besides my own.  These are the gauges you can choose from the listings on my website now!  (so excited about that!) – You can take a look at those options, at the bottom of the listing here –

wool roving, unspun wool, unspun roving, wool top,

wool roving - 2 oz.

thick and thin bulky yarn, slub yarn, cocoon yarn, art yarn,

This yarn has been spun thick and thin at 2 wraps per inch, 2 oz. yeilds about 23-25 yds.

thick and thin yarn, undyed yarn, merino wool  yarn, wpi, gauge

This yarn has been spun thick and thin at a 5 wpi, same 2 oz. (pulled thinner) yeilds avg. 30ish yards

thick and thin yarn, wpi, yarn gauge, gauge demo, wraps per inch

This yarn has been spun thick and thin at an 8 wpi, 2 oz. (pulled even thinner) yeilds 50ish yards

Setting the Twist

I have decided to finally write something I can refer folks to regarding setting the twist for my yarn.  NOTICE the “my” please.  There are as many ideas about “setting the twist” as there are home remedies for eczema.  “Setting the twist” is referred to almost always in reference to producing a “finished” a yarn.  These are my thoughts and ideas about “setting the twist” for MY thick and thin yarn that I create.  I think the yarn is “finished” when I say it is.  So can you!

My general idea is this:  setting the twist “straightens” the yarn.  After spinning the skein, it  is then wetted or soaked in plain water and then after pressing out the excess water it is hung to air dry.  All of my yarn is washed, dyed and washed again before it is spun – it is always very clean and you can read my feedback on Etsy here:  Blocking the skein means..adding a weight to the bottom of that skein as it dries.  If I wet the skein and block it, when it dries the fibers are more aligned and often times it will even out or make less noticeable any bumpy spots.  This is important for a straight yarn needed for a  finer knit/crochet project where the goal is an evenness in the fabric produced.

I have never had one customer tell me that when working with my yarn it fell apart  from not having the twist set or it being underspun. (Don’t forget..plain, unspun fiber, either in roving form or straight from a fleece can be knit or crocheted with everyday!)   If the yarn is spun well with good joins,  setting the twist is not going to make it “better”.  My yarn  is wound off my bobbin onto my skeiner and pulled on and then pulled on some more to form it into a skein.  Out of all of the thousands of skeins of wool that I have spun, I can honestly say I have never sold one thick and thin skein that had a knot from a break.   I have had a couple of breaks in a skein or two of complicated art yarn, but I always disclose that fact in my listings (under 5 out of thousands of skeins) and it has never hindered it’s marketability.  I find people generally appreciate full disclosure, I know I do! 🙂

********I felt I needed to add this clarification in response to another popular blog that may be trying to throw some scare tactics at you regarding your yarn falling apart if the twist isn’t set.  Don’t believe that you HAVE to set the twist for your small projects.  You don’t.  Check out the photos of all the fantastically, puffy and soft  creations people have made from my yarn without setting the twist  here –

For my thick and thin yarns  when using it in baby hats or small knit/crochet items, setting the twist  is counter-productive. (As does winding it into balls and storing it  – this smashes out all the air – don’t wind into balls until you are ready to work it up).  Preserve the puffs…they are expensive.     A major goal in making thick and thin yarn is to create texture and bumps and puffs producing a finished product with such characteristics. For other projects, for instance when using this yarn for doll hair or dreads,  setting the twist is done to begin the locking in of fibers, or felting and to also “set”  joins.  Handspun yarn can have as many joins as the spinner wants to add.  Some more, some less, there is no right or wrong amount of joins.  If the finished project is not worked up with stitches to better hold the fiber (and joins) together and your finished project is that it will be getting some use, for example much loved doll hair, then I do recommend setting the twist, but it is still purely optional.  I have many doll makers that buy my yarn for doll hair, I mainly wrote this for their sake.  When this yarn is used for doll hair and there are no knit or crochet stitches to secure the fibers?  Then please consider setting the twist of the yarn so it all doesn’t untwist from heavy lovin! This is directly related to when a doll maker secures the yarn to the head of the doll and then cuts the ends of the yarn to hang free.  If I take one fiber from my yarn and measure it I would find it to be between 3-4 inches long.  But not all wool has consistent length either, some are longer, some are shorter.  If the wool isn’t secured somehow (felting or stitches) withing that 3-4 inches, then there is nothing to hold the individual fibers together.  You could try hairspray, but it won’t last for long!   Both knit and crochet stitches are sufficient to hold the joins and fiber together in thick and thin yarn and even underspun yarn.  Ok..let’s say you do have a yarn that has breaks or comes apart at a you have an end ~ end…what to do?  Weave it in, cut it off,  pick up a new yarn and carry on.  It probably won’t change how you sleep tonight! 🙂

Blocking a  yarn can be overdone – if too much weight is hung on the bottom when drying,  after your item is worked and laundered might bunch all up in areas that you don’t want it too and then need to be blocked (using a mat made from towels and by using pins, pin the garment into the desired shape of the item when dry).  Sometimes blocking the finished item with pins will not bring it back into shape..depending on how much the yarn stretched out from heavy blocking. There is a lot of info on the internet about blocking yarn and finished can get you there.

All of this can be done to different degrees…hard blocking, light blocking, light felting, very much felted..hence all of the different ideas.

For thick and thin yarn baby hats I don’t set the twist until after my item is finished, if at all!  For photography props that don’t get continued regular use especially.  Delivering an item that is all puffy and bumpy is what they want!  For practical purposes, I would wash and air dry the hat gently and over time yes, it will lose some of it’s big yarn puffiness..but for the most part will always have thick and thin texture and be great for everyday use.

It’s all subjective and open to lots of interpretation.  Choosing to use a  yarn with the twist set or unset depends on  your finished project.  For purposes of my sales, when in doubt I leave it out so you can decide what you need.  Because once it’s done..for the most part it can’t be undone.

One exclusion here worth mentioning is art yarn.  The very nature of making an “art” yarn is the rules about twist and how much or how little are out the window.  It is an open field for creativity and fun with fiber! Setting the twist on art yarns will yield unpredictable results.  As it should, or I wouldn’t make any!

Handspun Thick and Thin Yarn (with too much twist  or not enough twist)

If you think your skein of handspun  has too much twist this is what you do.  If it already isn’t in a skein, wrap it into a skein.  Most skeins are typically wound in loops of about 2 yards.  This will only work for a skein of yarn that has not had the twist set.  This is for what is called a “live” single.  It is part of the joy of a live single.  You as the creator of your project can manipulate the yarn to your liking.  If your yarn is in a ball,  anchor the end of the yarn, by securing it (don’t let any twist out yet) to a skeiner, or a basket or chair, then wind it off the ball, without letting out any twist.  Don’t let go of the end and be careful. Try to lay or wrap it into 1-2 yard lengths to form your skein.  It isn’t important the length, just try to make them as even as you can. Then re-tie it to itself.  Tie the second end onto the skein as well.  Lay it down and then take two or maybe three scrap yarn ties and tie it around your skein..loosely around the skein. (this is for safety, in case you lose your ends somehow).  You want it held together with enough room for the yarns to be able to move.  If you tie them too tight, the twist can’t move.  After it is secured with your added ties…very carefully..untie one end of the skein.  Let some twist come out of the end of about a yard’s length.  If you think you’ve let out too much, just finger twist back in what you want.  Repeat on the other end.  Then lift the skein, one end in each hand, and apply pressure to the strands by pushing outward, then let it relax.  Repeat this a couple of times and the twist will move and even out in your skein.  You can repeat this process if you feel it still has too much twist in it. Or untie it and finger roll some twist back in if you’ve taken too much out.   Remember this only works on “live” singles.  You are the master!  (I try to spin my thick and thin skeins with a titch extra twist because usually when it is received it is wound into a ball.  I try to include enough twist for this activity to happen (because probably…some twist will be lost while doing this)..leaving enough for easy work.  Have I ever put too much twist in a single?  Well,  have you ever burnt toast?  Yes, it happens.  But as long as it is a “live” single you can take it out.  I hope this helps!

And for those feeling pretty confident about it, and feel they don’t need the safety ties, you can just untie the ends and make the ties looser, leaving a little more room for the twist to travel through the entire skein.  This is what I do.  The finger rolling explanation above is provided for newbies wanting to add or take out and manipulate their skein of yarn to their liking.

Thank you for reading along.  I hope this helps you in your yarn/fiber journey.  Please feel free to leave any comments!  I appreciate every one! 🙂


29 Responses to "Setting the Twist and Yarnie Thoughts"

website hasn’t been updated in many moons.
beginner spinner here! I enjoyed your talk and have learned from it I appreciate you taking your time to explain things to us. Love the frosted feet! may have to get some! thanks

I am so incredibly beyond excited that I have found your blog via etsy via a search on “merino wool tops” and found your fruit stripes. Fiberlicious, indeed! I just discovered the world of fiber…YESTERDAY. I am totally into it and definitely researching how to get my own carding thing going on, so your post truly resonates with the balance of work-family-needs-wants-hobby-livelihood-artistic pursuit!

Tomorrow morning I am coming back to your site with my cup of coffee to read through your posts.

Lucy at

I just found your site here when I was looking up yarn art on etsy. I luv your art yarn….it’s sooooo pretty! I just bought myself a drop spindle but have made any yarn yet. I’ve got a couple of your things saved as favorites because I can’t decide what to get. Can’t wait to see who wins.

🙂 Donna

I hope this is the right place to post for the giveaway scarf. It’s lovely!!!

It is the right place! Thank you so much! I hope you win and have a great weekend! 🙂

I reallyreally want to win this, because then I can show my boyfriend how GORGEOUS felting is, and how he should support me taking it on as yet another hobby! He already loves the purple yarn I spun then knit into a scarf for him from your roving.

I’m so crafty in all the right ways. 😉

Hi Kelsey! That is a great idea! I, for a long time too, had felting in an “old scratchy wool” category. This is too soft for words even! It’s wonderful to hear good things back from customer’s alwasy! Thank you for that and thank you so much for stopping by and your comment for the contest! I hope you win too! You do rock girl! 🙂

This blog is awesome to help others learn a bit more about Handspun and the lingo 😛 I LOVE your yarn and have a hard time giving it up! But its too beatuiful NOT to share with my customers 😀
I would love love to win this scarf!
Thank you for doing what you do and I can’t want to order more goodies from you 🙂
xo Brittany

Thanks so much Brittany! I appreciate you! 🙂

I have recently discovered thick and hin handspun art yarn, and I’m already addicted! I especially love the ones with the long natural curls…I am paying on a spinning wheel now and will frequent your blog for info. Spinnning absolutely fascintates me!

Hi Heather, yay! Another converted! 🙂 I wish you the best with your spinning wheel and hope you make ooooodles of delicious yarn! Thanks for stopping by and good luck in the contest for the felted scarf too! 🙂

Hi there I just found your site and am in love with your yarn I can’t hardly wait to purchase some so I can start to make cool projects with it.

Thank you Amanda! I appreciate you! Good luck in the contest too! 🙂 Ny.

Thanks so much!

Thank YOU Amanda! I hope you win! 🙂

I just read your article, what great help for a “newbie” like me. Can’t wait to get my first order 🙂 the yarns are absolutely delicious looking and I am sure they will feel as good as they look.
Love the scarf, absolutely gorgeous xx

Thank you Celia! I knew you just couldn’t live another day without all of that fibery lingo and and and! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and your kind comments! I’m glad you like the scarf and I hope you win! 🙂

Great read I know why my homespun I tried to do was never as fluffy as others. I set the twist and blocked it and it made it no so fluffy fluffy. The setting of the twist was the part I never really liked. The spinning was always the fun part.

Hi Suzanne, well and I just think it’s good to remember that regardless of what “fiber rules” we read or learn about…we are the ultimate creators and that is SO FUN! 🙂 I find my enjoyment of spinning secondary to dyeing. But it all needs to get done…so I just better get busy! Thanks for stopping by Suzanne! I hope you win! 🙂

I love your yarn an am in need of ordering more. Hoping to win the scarf too!!

Thank you Christin! and thanks for stopping by! I hope you win too! 🙂

The scarf is beautiful. Thank you for all the helpful tips for beginners.

Thank you Lauren and thanks for stopping by! I hope you win! 🙂

Well ilashdesigns, I LOVE LOVE LOVE your yarn and now love your writing!! It was easy to read yet very informative! Thank you for sharing your knowledge… I hope to one day try my hand at spinning esp. since I am SOOOOO addicted to your yarn!

Thank you Melissa! You’re a gem! Thanks for your positive input! Yes, please do try your hand at spinning! I highly recommend it! It is absolutely my pleasure to make you yarns you really like! I hope one day in your fiber journey you find you love the yarns that you make too! (there cannot be enuf you know!) 🙂 xxoo

Thank you, I’m so glad I found this post. I just set the twist on a pre-dyed batch of roving that I spun up and the darned colors ran. I’m glad I took pics of before because the subtlety in color changes were wonderful and now I’m a bit sad but wiser. I will now wind off and let it sleep, and leave in a skein until it’s time to start a project. *sigh* Aloha!

Great! I’m glad this was helpful! 🙂

Not a wordpress member, but I Love this article. I am browsing your posts!

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